The Unimaginative Ingenuity of the Common Man

Holmes/Watson. NC-17. ~7,000 words. Steampunk AU.
Despite the testament of his empty wallet, Watson still tended to favour the long odds.

Thick grey fog crowded close, clogging Watson’s lungs. A muffled shout pushed through the leaden mist on billows of steam as the gears in one of engines that kept the streets from flooding ground shrilly. He dodged back as engineers materialised to swarm like ants over the hulking machine. A lady stood on the raised walk watching them in fascination, shielded from the rain by a glass umbrella, its dozens and dozens of minuscule panes held in place by expertly twisted copper.

It was no remarkable sight to Watson’s eyes, accustomed as he’d grown to London’s mechanical grind, and the sharp bite of seared metal stung his nose. He paid little attention to the engineers as he detoured down Linhope Street, his wonder at their skill reserved for the far less commonplace and his worry for the backwash that would surely soak him to the knee should the pumps fail entirely. He’d had his fill of damp and dirty for the day, his chilled bones already yearning for Mrs. Hudson’s excellent tea.

Fingering the crumpled pamphlet for the Exhibition Gala, he hoped he would find Holmes, freshly shaved and impeccably dressed, seated at the table already enjoying a cup and not as he left him the night before, drifting listlessly through their rooms like a leaf in a stagnant puddle.

Despite the testament of his empty wallet, he still tended to favour the long odds.

*

Rainwater blackened with the soot of coal-fires dripped from the eaves in staccato counterpoint to Holmes’s measured pacing. For the third time he paused in front of the fractured mirror on the mantle and adjusted his collar, brushing invisible lint from his tie.

“Perhaps an earlier carriage would have been in order,” Watson said, tossing aside yet another telegram that begged for Sherlock Holmes’s aid in a case so trivial it bored even him. “Or the lifts.”

“Absolutely not.” Holmes snatched the Oberlin stove’s ivory handle from the mantle and jammed it into the lid. Cranking it open, he lit his cigarette from the flames that leapt upward. “The City Line has been pulling awkwardly for two weeks and three days. Unless I have grossly miscalculated–and I never do—the couplings will fail within seventy-two hours.” A sour twist to his mouth, and before Watson could speak, he added, “Yes, Watson, I have dutifully informed the Lineguard.”

“Still upset with you over November, is he?”

The stove’s lid clanked down. “I certainly don’t see why,” Holmes said, the tip of his cigarette flaring hellfire red. “Surely the loss of one car is preferable to the loss of the entire system. And that was not even my fault.”

“The Lineguard tends to take a very lateral view of things,” Watson said, though in the questionable privacy of his own mind–there were indeed times he thought Holmes quite capable of reading his thoughts as easily as he read the morning paper–he found his sympathies lay firmly at the feet of the Station. Holmes hadn’t actually needed to conceive of so dramatic a trap for the saboteurs.

Holmes grunted his agreement and stalked to the blanked windows, his dressing gown furling in his wake. A scowl settled between his brows. “We could simply stay in.”

Pouring another cup of tea for himself, Watson served up one for Holmes with a dollop of honey and wished it were so easy to sweeten the onset of a black mood as easy as it was a black tea. “You’ve been in for two days. Here.”

Holmes stared down at the neat little teacup and saucer as if it were an adder. “In is vastly more interesting than out.”

“It is not. Drink.”

“But it is,” Holmes insisted, his restlessness momentarily banished as he sank into a languid drape in the chair to Watson’s left, his elbow cocked over the back and his long legs crossed. “The city has become a cesspool of nothing of much consequence at all. I assure you I can find a far better use of our time if you would but grant me the pleasure of your company today.”

“You may take as much pleasure in my company as you desire,” Watson said, relieved when the cardbox mounted above the sideboard chimed. It rolled from the neat little illustration of a breakfast nook set for two to that of a carriage. If Holmes persisted, his will would falter. The few hours of pleasurable distraction he could provide would not be enough to stave off the ennui threatening to engulf the last scrap of light in Holmes’s eyes. “But you shall have to do so on the way to the Exhibition.”

Holmes heaved a sigh worthy of Atlas himself as the weight of the outside world settled on his shoulders. “If I must.”

*

The transparent roof of the Glass Palace wavered beneath the deluge, a steady hiss riding the cacophony of life rattling about inside its thick plate walls. The air inside was as clogged as out, leaden with the smells of exotic foods and scorched wiring, the shouts of eternally optimistic inventors vying for the attentions of a generous lord’s purse.

Inspector Lestrade’s gaze darted ferret-like between them. “Imagine my finding you already here.”

“Indeed,” Holmes sniffed, plucking the magnifying spectacles from the ribbon on his rakishly-tilted hat. He peered intently through them at an inconsequential seeming speck of dust.

“I procured tickets only this morning,” Watson said, resettling his weight more firmly onto his walking stick as Holmes searched the bright Indian carpets piled about the display. “I’m sure Mrs. Hudson will send your constable back from Baker Street post-haste.”

“Sure that she will,” Lestrade agreed, rolling his eyes as Holmes slapped his ankle to move him three steps to the right. “He’ll have a fine time of it with the lift out.”

Holmes barked a triumphant laugh and continued his investigation of crushed carpet fibres.

With a tight smile, Watson fished a small brass-bound notebook out of one pocket and a matching pre-inked pen from another. He scraped the nib a few times to removed the crust of dried ink. “If you wouldn’t mind terribly, relate to me again the details?”

As Lestrade droned on in his uninteresting manner, Watson dutifully took notes for Holmes’s later perusal. A great deal more of his attention remained on Holmes crawling about the floor, eyes alight and lips twitching minutely as he muttered to himself. A sense of well-deserved satisfaction glowed warmly in Watson’s belly. There would be no room for a blackened mood and the cocaine-bottle now.

*

“Watson, I am at a loss for words.”

“Surely not,” Watson said, carefully schooling the corner of his mouth to a sardonic slant before lowering that evening’s edition of the Pall Mall.

Holmes tapped the mouthpiece of his pipe against his forehead and paced to the chemical bench. “I can see how the thief has done it but not why. The why concerns me, Watson.”

“How so? The thing is hardly dangerous.”

“Exactly!” Holmes shouted, whipping about to jab the pipe into the air. “Hardly dangerous and hardly useful. There must be some personal intrigue here.” He stuck the pipe back into his mouth and puffed, giving a disgruntled snort when he recalled he hadn’t yet lit it.

Watson struck a match and offered it. “A rival?”

“I think not.” Bent low over the arm of Watson’s chair, Holmes puffed again, humming contentedly as smoke curled from his nostrils. “Thank you, Watson. I believe there is a very personal relationship at the root of this fellow’s troubles. We must discover who so very badly desires his invention to fail.”

“From his account it doesn’t seem as if it requires any aid in that respect.” Neatly folding his paper, Watson set it aside with the intent to join Holmes in his smoking. Before he could stand to fetch his pipe a fine Lowland cigar appeared, already snipped, in the palm of Holmes’s hand. “I was looking for my pipe,” Watson remarked, taking the cigar.

“But you wanted that,” Holmes said, pipe clenched between his teeth as he offered the flame of the compact firestarter.

The name of which Watson had always considered slightly misleading; the firestarter itself was indeed compact but the flame it boasted was most definitely not. Wary of a singed moustache, he leaned carefully forward. At the first warm curl of clove-laced smoke, he realised Holmes had been right. His self-congratulatory mood was far more suited to this indulgence.

“I am inclined to agree with you,” Holmes said, flicking the firestarter in the general direction of the mantle and turning on his heel to perch delicately on the arm of Watson’s chair. “No doubt it would have been a dismal failure regardless, but this thievery has guaranteed such an outcome if we cannot recover it in a timely fashion.”

Buoyed even further by Holmes’s infectious energy, Watson laid his arm along Holmes’s thigh. Well-developed muscle tensed minutely–Holmes was not quite surprised by this free affection in the middle of a case but startled by its rarity nonetheless. Watson was generally very careful to not divert Holmes’s attentions at such times.

Expecting it to go unremarked, Holmes in turn gave Watson a start by saying, “What is this, Watson?”

Watson gave a tiny shrug. “I’m glad to see you so engaged.”

“I am beginning to suspect you wish to see me differently so.” One fine eyebrow arched questioningly.

“You are your most lively when caught in a puzzle,” Watson allowed, curling his fingers to sweep beneath Holmes’s knee. At the slight hitch in Holmes’s breathing, he wondered quite honestly why he’d never tried this before.

“Indeed,” Holmes said, agreement and statement both as he slid gracefully from the chair’s arm to the square of carpet in front of it. His long fingers curved about Watson’s upper thighs and pushed them very slowly wider. “And you at your most accommodating.”

“I’m always accommodating,” Watson said, his lungs squeezing tightly as Holmes plucked at buckles and buttons with clear intent. “I do hope you bolted that door.”

Holmes flashed a smile worthy of the most impish street urchin. “Mrs. Hudson would never be so crass as to enter without knocking.”

“Your clientele’s manners are sometimes lacking,” Watson said, the last of it spilling out in a breathless rush as Holmes pushed aside cotton and concerns alike to draw free his cock. His fingertips dug into the upholstery as Holmes stroked him lazily to full hardness and then simply held him cradled in one hand, thumb rubbing absently near the tip. “For the love of God, Holmes, please tell me you don’t mean to only look at it.”

“Not at all. Though I do enjoy the sight.” His leg jerked as Holmes thumbed his slit, encouraging the spread of slippery wetness. Holmes smiled. “I enjoy it quite a bit.”

Watson groaned and slumped deeper into the chair, his knees falling shamefully wide. “You’re wretchedly cruel to me.”

Warm breath shivered over Watson’s damp skin. “You enjoy it.”

“I must be mad to.”

“Undoubtedly,” Holmes said, and pressed his clean-shaven cheek to Watson’s cock, his breaths slow and deliberately measured. The ticking of the faceless clock above the mantlepiece grew louder, plucking at Watson’s nerves as he waited with breath caught for Holmes to turn, take him into the warm lushness of his mouth.

But he did nothing and Watson’s will to wait broke. He took Holmes’s face in his hands, thumbs curved over the sharp rise of his cheekbones. Holmes’s eyes slid slowly shut, his weight resting heavily on Watson’s uninjured leg as he willingly let his mouth be guided, his lips parting and closing softly around the head of Watson’s cock. His tongue curled forward, firm and as clever in sin as it was in conversation as it slipped beneath foreskin to drag along the ridge.

“Holmes, your hand,” Watson said, and sucked air between his teeth as Holmes’s grip immediately tightened. He set his fingers beneath Holmes’s jaw to urge him forward, his own head falling back to rest on the chair as Holmes’s mouth opened wider to accommodate his cock’s heavy thickness.

There remained the thrill of newness to this still, a spark of the unknown. Holmes was not so practiced as he was confident that all Watson truly required was a bit of physical stimulation to go along with the dizzying rush of such debauchery. But where Holmes frequently pushed Watson to his limits so did Watson wish to return the favour here with Holmes’s breaths shortened, his nostrils flaring wide and the delicate flutter of his throat so close to closing around the head of his cock.

Holmes coughed and pulled quickly back, said, “Perhaps less accommodating than I’d first thought,” his voice a dark alleyway rasp. Saliva glistened at the corner of his smile. “Shall we try once again?”

Chest constricted, Watson forced out a simple, “Please,” and Holmes returned, lips soft and wet and parting slowly to begin anew. Watson’s thumb slipped down to press lightly against Holmes’s throat, eliciting a short sharp noise that would’ve made him snatch it away again if it weren’t for the desperate fist Holmes tangled in his open trousers. He gave a small thrust, his heart clogging his throat in mute sympathy of his cock steadily filling Holmes’s. Holmes swallowed once, weak and fluttering, then a second time as his face flushed darkly.

Watson choked on a word of caution and seized Holmes’s hair to shove him back before he did the same but Holmes would have none of it. A trickle of tears dampened the corners of Holmes’s eyes, catching on his fluttering lashes as he forced his gaze upwards.

The raw need glittering darkly in his eyes finished Watson as surely as if Holmes had barked it in an order. He’d seen a need like that dozens of times before, a much more mild glimmer that came with what he’d thought for so long was the unnecessary praise he felt compelled to give Holmes’s brilliance. How desperately Holmes desired it would never cease to shock him.

Stitches tore as he seized a handful of Holmes’s shirt. He surged upwards, a breathless apology leaping to his lips when Holmes did choke and still refused to pull away, his throat constricting tightly as he struggled to swallow the proof of Watson’s pleasure. Unable to manage it he finally eased back, his eyes falling shut again as his mouth filled and a small droplet leaked from the corner . He touched it with unsteady fingers, smearing it back across his lips until they glistened wetly.

The rustle of cotton stirred Watson from the lassitude threatening to overtake him. “Up,” he said, tucking his hands beneath Holmes’s armpits and tugging weakly.

“Across your lap?” Holmes said, laughter echoing in his roughened voice even as he clambered up to straddle Watson’s thighs.

The chair gave a mighty groan at the extra weight. Watson couldn’t care less if the entire thing gave way beneath them. He watched Holmes’s hand move over his cock, the entire length made shiny in the lamplight by spit and his come, and when the urge struck he thrust his fingers in his mouth without a second thought, wetting them thoroughly before shoving his hand into Holmes’s trousers and rubbing gently at the tight clench of his hole.

Holmes made a strangled noise deep in his throat, something he obviously intended to be an admonishment from the expression on his face as he lurched forward. The head of his cock dragged over Watson’s bared belly and his hand clenched tightly onto the chair’s back, eliciting another protest from its sorely-tried joints. A noise so broken it sounded as if it had been wrenched from the pit of Holmes’s gut spilled hotly against Watson’s cheek, followed swiftly by the warm spill of come directly onto his skin.

“Watson, you are terrible,” Holmes said, his muscles still twitching in the aftershocks of his pleasure. “I had no idea you wished such sport tonight.”

“Not particularly,” Watson said, though the thought gave fresh spark to his lust, “but you so frequently remind me that I have the liberty to take such liberties as I like.”

Holmes rested their foreheads together. “Then if you have no objections, I should like you to take the liberty of kissing me.”

The kiss Watson took tasted of the half-dozen sins they had blissfully committed, and later, when at Holmes’s urging they moved to the settee to curl about one another in a light doze, he was hard pressed to recall an evening so pleasant.

*

All was not so idyllic two days later at 221B.

After breakfasting alone Watson sat down at his desk to write another chapter or two of what he was determined to title The Mystery of Musgrave despite the numerous derisive glances Holmes insisted on flinging his way. Not ten minutes later the discordant plucking of strings emanated from behind Holmes’s closed door. Gritting his teeth, Watson persisted, the clack-grind of his auto-writer underscoring the increasingly ear-shattering shrill of Holmes’s playing.

Mrs. Hudson’s cardbox vainly beseeched Quiet, please! three times in quick succession, to which Watson slammed the case down on his auto-writer and went to pound his fist against Holmes’s door. “Holmes! Holmes, stop that this instant! You shall drive our good landlady to absolute distraction!”

The notes of one last defiant screech set Watson’s eyes to watering. “Thank you, Holmes.”

Silence.

“I realise the case is giving you a spot of trouble, old boy, but perhaps a spot of tea would soothe your nerves.”

“My nerves, Watson!” came Holmes’s incredulous cry, followed by a loud bang and the clattering of glass. “My nerves would be fine if you would cease your infernal clacking!”

Watson leaned his forehead against the door and counted slowly to five. “I would be happy to, but you confiscated all the ink to be found in the house for your experiment yesterday.” Which was, he refrained from noting yet again, a dismal failure.

More silence, then a huff and a shuffle and the door flew open to reveal Holmes still in his nightshirt and dressing gown and inexplicably, his favourite hat. His feet were bare and looking rather chilled, though that could have been a projection on Watson’s part due to the frigid arctic blast that accompanied Holmes’s appearance. The small potbelly in the corner looked as if it hadn’t been lit in a week.

“I suppose you expect me to apologise for that,” Holmes sniffed.

“Not at all,” Watson said, as that was not Holmes’s way and he had already pilfered a few coins from Holmes’s pockets to give to Mrs. Hudson for a resupply. “But I do wish you would eat something. You’ll feel better.”

“I have no time for food, Watson,” Holmes moaned, leaning his arm against the doorframe and his forehead against his arm. “I had been so certain!”

“Of?” Watson cautiously prompted.

“His wife.” Holmes jerked away from the jamb at the touch of Watson’s hand to his elbow but trailed placidly along as Watson steered him towards his wide, high-backed chair. “Who else could have more reason to spare Mr. Blackleby the mortification of his invention’s public failure?”

“I hadn’t thought a thief could possess so altruistic a motive.” Brow furrowed, Watson went to the table to pour Holmes a fresh cup of tea. Since he’d ordered breakfast for only one, he filled his own cup to the brim and brought it over with a scrap of cold toast. The tea itself was lukewarm at best but he doubted Mrs. Hudson would be in much of a mood to provide a fresh pot right then.

“Nonsense,” Holmes said, sipping daintily at his cup. “The majority of thieves steal for those closest to their hearts. My God, what is this, chafe?”

Watson cleared his throat and assumed his own seat after stoking the fire. “Toast. You’ll recall you refused to join me earlier.”

“I was otherwise engaged,” Holmes said, a bare hint of mollification in his tone.

“No doubt,” Watson muttered, and crossed his legs. “So you have concluded that Mrs. Blackleby did not make off with her husband’s invention?”

“She did not,” Holmes agreed, nibbling on a crust. “It all smacks of the most personal involvement yet my attempts at pinpointing have only managed to clear the good Mr. Blackleby’s family and friends–even associates and erstwhile schoolmates!–of all blame. It is most frustrating.”

Breathing easier now that Holmes seemed fractionally more settled, Watson asked, “What of your attempts to locate the device?”

“Oh, that. It’s either in a Southwark warehouse or the vicarage in East Dulwich.”

If he’d had tea, Watson would have choked on it. “Well surely you must tell Mr. Blackleby!”

“Must I?” Holmes sighed gustily into his cup. “Mrs. Blackleby promised me a half sovereign if I didn’t.”

Watson’s eyes widened. “That is exceedingly generous.”

Holmes plopped his chin into his hand. “Most especially compared to his three shillings if I do. But the money hardly matters, Watson, it is the thrill of it. I wish to know why Blackleby’s confounded contraption went missing in the first place.”

Since Watson was the one most often struggling to pay his half of the rent, something he stubbornly insisted upon doing despite Holmes’s sometimes fond, sometimes worryingly serious offers to make him a kept man, he rather felt the money did matter. “You’ve been quite content before to consign the whys to conjecture following the closing of a case.”

“There is something not right about this one,” Holmes said, and tapped his lips with his forefinger as he lapsed into a thoughtful silence. The sky rumbled overhead, voicing its own displeasure at the state of the world as the endless spring rain fell harder. The gaslights flickered wanly. “And you have been remarkably unhelpful, Watson.”

In the midst of rising to fetch something of substance for Holmes to eat, Watson eased back into his chair. “I beg your pardon?”

“You may beg all you wish, I shan’t grant it,” Holmes said. “Your performance thus far has been entirely sufficient. I’ve come to expect more of you.”

“I don’t see what more I could do,” Watson protested.

“Inspire me, Watson! I have overlooked something obvious, help me to find it.”

Watson delayed the inevitable by tugging at his cuffs, then his collar. “You have eliminated all possible motives,” he finally said. “If no harm nor help comes to Mr. Blackleby from his invention’s theft, then of course you are right: there must be some personal gain for the thief. But you have already concluded that the machine will be of absolutely no use to anyone at all.”

Holmes opened his mouth to speak and abruptly shut it again. A moment later he leapt to his feet and dashed into his room, calling, “Exactly, Watson, exactly! The machine is of no use at all to anyone, but its disappearance may well be!”

Watson considered this to the backdrop of slamming cupboards and scraping drawers. “Surely you don’t mean Mr. Blackleby planned this to increase his invention’s value.”

Appearing briefly in the doorway, a half-dressed Holmes proclaimed, “And why not?”

“Well,” Watson said, and duly reconsidered. “I suppose if only he, his wife, and now you and I are aware of its destined failure, it would be possible to convince others it holds an unproven value. But to what end, Holmes?”

“Investors, my good man!” Buttoning his waistcoat, Holmes emerged from his bedroom and moved through the sitting room, picking up his coat, gloves and hat as he went. “I shall return before nine. I trust that is enough time for you to convince Mrs. Hudson that I am dreadfully sorry for disturbing the peace of her house and do what you can to ensure she won’t hold supper hostage again? Excellent. Good day, Watson!”

In the relative silence that followed Holmes’s hasty departure, Watson smiled and resettled himself at his desk. With the sitting room his own for the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening, there was a good chance he could finish his manuscript and have it ready for his editor by morning.

*

The telegram arrived at a quarter past seven marked URGENT. Expecting it to be another desperate plea for attention from a lonely lady, he took his time getting around to opening it. When he finally did, he nearly dropped his glass of port.

“Holmes,” he growled, balling up the piece of paper and flinging it into the stove as he stomped by on his way to the narrow staircase that lead to his room.

The gaslight sputtered when he cranked the knob, throwing out sharp-edged shadows. He bypassed his service pistol sitting on a side table beside the model Royal Berkshire dirigible he’d spent the better part of two years constructing entirely and moved to his wardrobe. Throwing aside his clothes, he opened the false back and pulled out the undercoat harness, strapping it on one-handed while he reached for his flechette gun.

Tugging on his overcoat, he checked the fit to make certain it didn’t show when he moved. His service pistol he tucked into another harness hidden inside his deep pockets, checking the draw as he clomped back down the stairs.

Mrs. Hudson met him at the bottom. “What’s this now, Doctor?” she asked, her folded hands twitching only slightly as she fought the urge to wring them. “Should’t you be calling the Yard?”

“They’ll be of no use at all out there,” Watson said, and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder to move her aside. “Mr. Holmes is in need of a quiet touch.”

“Yes, so he said but- Oh, don’t bother looking at me like that, Doctor. A telegram is not the most secretive method of communication.” She plucked his hat from the stand and his gloves from the table beside it. “All right, off you go,” she huffed, about-facing to retreat back to her kitchen haven. “I’ll leave the boiler fired. Do not drop mud all over my foyer when you return!”

*

“Oh Holmes,” Watson whispered, picking his way carefully through the debris-ridden path. “What the devil are you doing here.”

The watery gaslights demarcating the boarders of the Mechanical Graveyard reached only a dozen feet past its gates. The dark lantern he held fought vainly against the sheets of cold rain, the single stream of light that made it through the torrent glinting dully on weathered scrap. Crooked towers of junk rose on either side to blot out the distant rain-hazed glow of the city proper. Billows of shredded steam from the grinders drifted low to the west.

He moved as stealthy as he could over the clogged muddy ground. He saw the lamps belonging to resurrectionists hunting through the scrap once or twice but never one of them, only the great heaps of salvaged metal they carried on their backs.

The telegram had said south of the grinders, so that was where he went. The filthy maze of the Graveyard turned a trip of twenty minutes into forty. Beneath the churning soup of mud and rust he sometimes caught sight of metal direction plaques set into the cobblestones that had once been straight and neatly-planned roads and altered his direction, checking his compass to be certain they weren’t leading him astray.

The icy rain dripping down the back of his collar did nothing to cool the worry burning beneath his skin. There was no good reason for Holmes to be in such a place.

After another harrowing ten minutes during which unending panoramas of all the terrible danger Holmes could be in played inside his head, Watson reached the south-end of the grinders. As he searched for a trace of what Holmes was about, the hot sparking dust and hissing steam stinging his eyes, he wished he’d had the wherewithal to have taken a pair of protective goggles on his way out.

He found his answer in the familiar shape of old moorland code; instead of rocks and twigs it used metal gears and shards, but the message was clear enough. Watson’s shoulders slumped. The rain beat down onto his hat, running in rivulets off the brim.

“Holmes,” he growled a minute later, and decided right then and there the cab he fetched home would be charged to Holmes’s account.

*

Mr. Blackleby’s testament to the unimaginative ingenuity of the common man sat gleaming innocently on the dining table. Holmes sat in a chair beside it, a freshly steaming cup of tea and a voluminous towel at his elbow. He smiled. “Don’t look so sour, Watson.”

Watson transferred his glare to the clock. Half eleven. “Holmes, I’m very cross with you right now.”

“I suppose that is fair, as I was very cross with you some time ago.” Holmes stood and gathered up the towel. “Come here before that puddle about your feet becomes a lake.”

Stripping off his coat and jacket, Watson left them in a crumpled pile topped with his hat and gloves just outside the sitting room door. He leaned heavily on his walking stick as he stumped over to the fire. A warm curl of satisfaction slithered through his belly as Holmes’s eyes widened at the sight of the flechette gun at his side and the poignard strapped to his arm, but it was sadly not enough to combat the chill that had stolen to his very marrow.

“Your telegram was urgent,” Watson said, reaching for the towel when Holmes drew near.

Holmes smoothly sidestepped and began patting his face dry with a corner. “Not quite that urgent, I would think.”

“Do you recall the last time I braved the Graveyard at your behest?” It had not been the most pleasant of evening. Echoes of Holmes calmly stating that Mycroft held his last will and testament in trust still haunted Watson’s sleepless nights.

“Ah,” Holmes said, in a manner clearly indicating he had forgotten entirely until that moment. He cleared his throat. “My sincerest apologies.”

Feeling rather foolish about whole debacle, Watson heaved a sigh. “We could spend all night on apologies.”

“Indeed we could,” Holmes said, flinging the towel around Watson’s shoulders. “I suggest we turn our attention to more important matters. You may begin by telling me why you made off with Mr. Blackleby’s Mastertoaster 1615.”

“Why I,” Watson began. “Holmes, I’m not sure what you mean.”

Hooking a chair closer with his toe, Holmes sat down and began unbuckling the flechette’s harness. “I realise you orchestrated this little case for my benefit but I would very much like to know why.”

Watson scrubbed at his moustache with the towel’s edge to delay his answer. “When did you come to that conclusion?”

“Only after I went to Southwark to fetch it,” Holmes said, his teeth showing for just an instant when he smiled. “You do have the benefit of being the one person I would always least suspect.”

“Mr. Blackleby’s performance was quite genuine,” Watson said, his pulse speeding as Holmes set aside the poignard and started in on his belt. “But his wife is going to be very disappointed with me. I may have to return her sovereign.”

Holmes paused, his fingers curled beneath the tails of Watson’s shirt and less than a hairsbreadth from touching skin. “A whole sovereign? My goodness, Watson, you are a thief.”

“A sometimes-thief,” Watson clarified, gooseflesh prickling all along his arms as Holmes released his braces and they slithered off his shoulders to clunk onto the floor. The back of his trousers dipped from the extra weight. A flick of Holmes’s fingers sent them slipping down to pool damply about his ankles.

“You must still tell me why,” Holmes insisted, hands skidding up the backs of Watson’s thighs to deftly deal with his underthings.

Standing half naked in the middle of their sitting room, Watson found his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth. Holmes peered patiently upwards, sharp chin digging into Watson’s belly, one eyebrow raised as if to say he was perfectly capable of staying exactly like this until either Watson offered an answer or they both perished of dehydration.

“The lethargy threatened,” he said, tucking a loose strand of Holmes’s hair behind his ear. That he was allowed such freedoms with a man so adverse to a casual touch remained as thrilling as the heat of Holmes’s kisses.

“It often does.”

Watson closed his eyes and breathed deeply before opening them again to meet Holmes’s steady gaze. “I could not allow it.”

Both of Holmes’s brows made for his hairline. A long moment of silence stretched between them before he softly said, “Ah, Watson.”

“‘Ah, Watson’ nothing,” Watson snapped. “If it is at all in my power to stave off these terrible moods then rest assured I will do so. I would cast your damnable cocaine-bottle down a public privy if I thought for one moment–for one single moment, Holmes!–that the loss would not do you more harm than good.”

Seeming to come to a decision, Holmes stood. “You feel quite strongly about this.”

“I do,” Watson agreed, his steps shuffling and unsteady as Holmes backed him away from the stove.

“Then there is only one thing to be done.”

Watson’s heel landed awkwardly on the edge of a commonplace book. Holmes’s hands clamped immediately to his sides to steady him, palms hot through the damp cotton of his shirt. An answering rush of heat stole up the back of Watson’s neck.

“You must strive to occupy my attention at all times,” Holmes went on, a devilish light sparking in his eyes. “Never allow my hands to slip into idleness, my mind into wandering.”

The backs of Watson’s knees bumped against the settee. “I must sleep at some point.”

“I suppose,” Holmes said, entirely as if the matter was not one of pure biological necessity, and then, “Wait!” his grip tightening to keep Watson from sinking down onto the cushions. “I have changed my mind.”

Dumbly, Watson could only say, “What?”

“We must go upstairs this instant,” Holmes said, dropping to his knees to rid Watson of his shoes and the trousers still circling his ankles.

“I am most certainly not about to go walking through the halls like this!”

“You must,” Holmes insisted, leaping back to his feet. “Only your bed will do tonight and we have no time for your modesty.” His hands back on Watson’s hips, he propelled Watson to the door. “Out and up with you.”

Sputtering, Watson nearly stumbled over the pile of clothing he had left near the door. By then it was too late for protests and with an alarmed glance to the stairs leading down, he darted up. Holmes followed close on his heels, “Quickly, Watson, quickly!” snapping like a whip at his back.

Once inside the familiar warmth of his attic room, he had no time to turn before the door swung shut and Holmes again took hold of him, the thump of Holmes’s knees hitting the rug and the hot gust of breath on his thigh all the warning given before Holmes parted his cheeks and lewdly kissed him. His hands grasped at air, the pleasure all the more shocking for the darkness that surrounded them. He felt more than heard Holmes’s soft moan, the sensation almost enough to send him crashing to his own knees on the floor when coupled with the slick and filthy wriggle of Holmes’s tongue pushing at his asshole.

“I do have a gel for that,” Watson said, thankful indeed that Holmes couldn’t see the flush rising on his face as he hunched over just bit and spread his feet a little further apart, well aware that if he couldn’t convince himself that it was to preserve his precarious balance then he certainly couldn’t fool Holmes.

“Of course you do,” Holmes said, and kissed the reflexive clench of muscle as warm breath teased damp skin. “And you will need it very soon.”

A shiver skittered up the length of Watson’s spine as Holmes stood, one hand dragging up the inside of his thigh. “The bed, please.”

“Then also the lamps,” Holmes said, his hand falling away.

The bed creaked long before Watson had lit the first. He dutifully attended to all three, brightening the room to the soft light of dusk before he allowed himself to turn and find Holmes reclining still in his shirtsleeves and trousers, though the buttons of both were open and his bare cock, slicked and ready, rested heavily against his belly.

He crooked his fingers, the lamplight revealing that they too were smeared with slippery gel. Excitement and arousal making him feel like he was a lad again, Watson made his way to the bedside and set a knee upon it, hesitating for only a moment to take in the sight before swinging up to straddle Holmes’s hips. “You are the very worst sort of invert.”

“As are you,” Holmes agreed, wasting no time in pushing between Watson’s spread thighs. He barely bothered to wet delicate flesh before firmly pressing upwards with the tips of two fingers, forcing Watson’s body to open to him with a slowness that bordered on horrible simply because it was so very slow.

“If you’re going to do that, you might as well skip your fingers all together,” Watson said through gritted teeth, and no sooner than the last syllable passed his lips Holmes complied, the blunt tip of his cock sinking easily to the depth his fingers had reached and pressing further, filling him with a blissful ache.

He rocked down not with impatience but a singular eagerness for more, the flare of his pleasure like a match struck and set to tinder. For a long moment he registered nothing but the feel of Holmes inside him, stroking slickly against delicate inner flesh with every shift of their bodies, and when he blinked back to awareness he saw Holmes staring up at him as if he’d finally seen the face of God Himself.

Sherlock Holmes was not a man he had ever mistaken for reverent, and despite his best efforts a wide grin split his face. Holmes crooked an eyebrow, somehow placing a question in that one small twitch and the roll of his hips, and with a gasp Watson said, “You looked very much not like your usual self.”

“Understandable,” Holmes said, his hands skidding up beneath Watson’s shirt to grip his sides, “as you look like very much more than your usual self.”

Air hissed through Watson’s teeth. The flats of his hands smacked to Holmes’s bared chest, a shallow grunt accompanying the shift in his weight, but unless it came with protests concerning the lack of breath reaching Holmes’s lungs, Watson cared not a jot. He completely ruined the rhythm Holmes had set, establishing one of his own that had sweat breaking out across Holmes’s upper lip and trickling down his back. His game leg gave a strident protest that he stubbornly ignored.

“Watson,” Holmes said, and whether it was warning or plea there was no chance to discover. His hands slid down to Watson’s ass in a grip firm enough to mottle flesh. Bracing his heels against the coverlet neither one of them had paused to turn down he thrust up, the force of it enough to knock Watson off balance, sending his hands skidding up Holmes’s chest and thumping into the pillow.

“I wanted to be surrounded by you,” Holmes said, answering Watson’s unvoiced question as to why they’d darted up the stairs like misbehaving schoolboys. “The bedding smells of you.”

“That is a remarkably romantic thing for you to say,” Watson attempted to reply, but rather thought most of it came out as a shameful burble of noise as Holmes wrapped one chemical-stained hand about his cock.

He rutted into Holmes’s hand with little thought to anything but his own completion and found it mere moments later as soft lips brushed the shell of his ear. He pressed his mouth to the curve of Holmes’s shoulder to muffle his moans as he came, unable to fully manage it when he could feel his release smearing from Holmes’s knuckles onto his belly. He might have been ashamed to admit to the lassitude that turned him into little more than a boneless heap in the few seconds between his peak and Holmes’s, but if he were truly going to bother with being ashamed of anything in his life now, it wouldn’t be his ability to wipe Holmes’s perpetually busy mind clean of all thoughts but him, even if only for a moment.

Far too soon, Holmes said, “You have made quite the mess of us, Watson.”

Watson replied with a satiated grunt, which at the moment he thought was the most suitable answer in the world. His body was only beginning to make its opinion of the matter known, and it would have to be a far more stridently voiced one to prompt his relocation to the warmth of the bath.

“I see,” Holmes said. “I do dislike being dirty without good cause.”

Summoning up second grunt for such a ridiculous statement was simply too much effort.

“Mrs. Hudson will have words when she discovers your underclothes in a heap by the fire.”

“Oh my God,” Watson said, stunned, and leapt from the bed to snatch up his dressing gown, throwing it on while Holmes’s bright and shining laugh chased him down the stairs.

End

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